The narrator of the story, Gene Forrester returns to Devon, a school in New Hampshire that he attended fifteen years earlier. Gene walks around the school's campus, everything seems new and shiny with a fresh coat of varnish as if it is on display. The campus looks the same as when Gene was there fifteen years earlier, it is almost frozen in time. Gene has come back to the school to visit a couple of places that he is fearful of. It is early afternoon in November, the grounds are deserted, and everyone is at sports. Gene wanders his way across a large yard called the Far Common and up to the First Academy Building. He stops at the foot of a long white marble flight of stairs. The steps seem to be very hard, even after all these years they have only worn slightly. After staring at the steps for awhile he heads back outside and trudges across the athletic field.
The wet snow and wind don't seem to bother him. He knows where he is going and nothing will stop that. As he approaches the river he searches for a particular tree, now they all look the same though. He eventually spots the tree that he is looking for; he recognizes it for the small scars on its trunk and the one branch that sticks out over the river. The tree, unlike the building has changed over the years. The tree now appeared weary from age, enfeeble and dry. Gene then turns back in the direction he came from and thinks "the more things remain the same, the more they change." He then heads inside to get away from the rain.
This is when the story changes into a memory of his days at Devon...